It’s All Connected

It’s all connected

The climate crisis may seem to most people as predominantly one of temperatures affected by the greenhouse effect, the result of excessive gases in the atmosphere that trap heat. Even understanding this seems to bypass many people.

However, I often wonder how much one’s average person who understands even that is considering the wider issue of the human impact upon the natural world, which is intimately connected with climate change..

For example, the very same industrial society which produces such greenhouse gases in transportation and production, seems so much a greater danger to life on earth as a result, in my opinion, of the profit motive, which reduces both people, the earth’s crust, and the life that emerged from its outer and thinnest layer, in mostly utilitarian terms, mere fodder for making money, rather than taking into consideration our human impact.

However, it seems to me that climate change invites us to think more deeply about the type of world we inhabit, deeper questions about our relationship to the living world and to each other. Profound questions about how humans provide for themselves have to be asked when we consider the catastrophe that is climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report Climate Change and Land informs us that “agriculture, forestry and other types of land use account for 23% of human greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry,” and that “some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others” ( The United Nations informs us that “switching to a plant-based diet can reduce an individual’s annual carbon footprint by up to 2.1 tons with a vegan diet” ((






Animal agriculture takes up a vast amount of land, and of course to monopolize only selected species such as ruminants on them also presupposes that the vast number of life forms that occupied that space before had to be razed away to raise them. For the profiteers, producing such animal-based food is primarily a means to make lots of money. Their concern for your nutrition is secondary. They would not hesitate to move into another industry if it were more profitable, as no doubt they will have to when more and more of us stop eating and drinking animal products and take on predominantly plant-based foods.

Animal husbandry takes up an entire 40% of the Earth’s inhabitable land! (Ritchie and Roser, Land Use, 2019, In fact, animal product consumption by humans is likely the leading cause of modern species extinction (Machovina, Biodiversity conservation, Science of the total environment, 2015, 536:420). And remember, the living world that is leveled out to raise animals for food, including milk, is also land in which grew complex vegetation that could sequester vast amounts of carbon in its soil. That is what soil is, broken down vegetation that absorbed vast amounts of carbon while alive.  So every time a burger is eaten or glass of milk drank, species extinction and climate change follows, hand in hand.  It’s all connected. Nature’s complexity took billions of years to evolve, all wiped out in an historical eyeblink for miles on end to make a quick buck.

I am not writing all this to make my readers feel guilty. That is an emotion more likely to generate a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. We are all in this together, and we are all going to respond to this crisis imperfectly. On a personal level, even with this knowledge, I have often failed to maintain a vegan diet on every day of the year, even though I have succeeded on 95% of my calendar.  While I applaud those who have sustained it for years on end without difficulty,  we all also suffer in varying degrees in our culture with using food for emotional comfort, and we all to a large extent were raised on eating meat, so that we may associate it on some level with fond memories of meals we had as children – that delicious roast and mashed potato dish our grandmothers may have cooked us, for example – thus imbuing such powerful memories with strong feelings of being loved and being happy. We are cognitive creatures, yes, but we also know that we are even more emotional ones, likely to be led this way and that by those emotions more than those rational thoughts.

On the one hand, our personal choices make a difference, but we also know that they are almost insignificantly small compared with the vast social organization and planning that will need to take place to create a sustainable human world.  Knowing that can also generate feelings of frustration, depression, and anger, as we attempt to model behaviors that few others seem to take on. We don’t want to simply render personal choices that elicit virtue signaling.  In today’s world, we already have too much of that.  No, we want a human world that is intrinsically based on sustainability, but also one that meets human needs on a global scale, and is crafted on principles of human freedom while at the same time inevitable constraints.

Let our environmental knowledge arm us as informed citizens, and let us make what changes we may in our personal lives as a result, but let us not sink into apathy because our responses seem far from perfect, and our self-judgment too harsh. This entire rant that I am now having with you is precisely to underlie how complex this problem is, how there are so many parts to it, that even if we were all perfect vegans, or bicycled everywhere as much as we can (which I also recommend), we cannot even then rest on our laurels narcissistically as though we are changing the world significantly, because we are really here talking about a vast planetary system based on economic values of growth and the religion of profit making. We should consider those choices we make as part of creating a new, sustainable, culture, knowing the big solutions are going to require big changes that extend beyond our choices, admirable as those are.  For example, we are going to have to go backward in some measure, if only to rewild vast tracts of land, and usher in sensible and acceptable boundaries to our lives, while at the same time ensuring that everyone has a home, nutrition, safety, toilets and running water, electricity in our homes (probably rationed).  Such a culture may have the potential to generate a sense of community that humans have not known in modern society since they left the tribes, and a global inter-connectivity that may finally overcome war, along with opportunities to create and contribute on a level unimaginable today.  It’s all connected.

Our present culture’s relationship with animals is not only that of what we eat. We have been devastated almost non-stop by some pandemic intimately connected with that relationship. Our recent CoVid19 pandemic, which seems to be chronic in its moving from one viral variant to another, and which we tend to think of as beginning in late 2019, actually first surfaced as a prior SARS illness in 2002 in Foshan, Guangdong province, China, owing to live animals available at markets, much as the more recent SARS virus did (Science, The animal origin of SARS-CoV-2, 2021, 373:6558, pp 968-907, However, human illness on a vast scale resulting from our tampering with the natural world goes back a long time.






A stark example of this is when the East India Company invaded Bengal, India, in the 1760s, and cut down 90% of the mangroves (trees that line coasts and rivers) to build embankments and rice patties. To survive this assault, the bacterium vibrio cholerae which before had been feeding off crustaceans developed by the incredible laws of evolution a long stringy filament that could attach to the human gut. When rainstorms common in India led to those rivers overflowing, humans easily caught this new illness, causing people to vomit, get diarrhea, turn blue, and die within hours, which took on pandemic proportions. Ecological disturbances cause very serious illness, including animal testing (Marburg virus), measles 7,000 years ago from cows, influenza 4,500 years ago from breeding waterfowl, leprosy from water buffalo, the common cold from horses, smallpox 4,000 years ago from gerbils infecting camels, malaria from deforestation, MRSA from factory farms, psittacosis from pets, Nipah virus from deforestation and factory farms, West Nile virus from biodiversity loss, Lyme disease from fragmenting natural habitats, and more recently SARS from the exotic animal trade (all references in this paragraph are from Vettese and Pendergrass, Half-earth socialism, 2022, p37 – this book is a great treasure trove of information; I highly recommend it!).





These are also types of illnesses that come from humans attempting to somehow bio-engineer the natural world. We still see today, in response to climate change, proposals to geo-engineer as solutions, including solar radiation management (SRM) (injecting aerosols and other chemicals into the environment to reflect the sunlight better, with possible serious negative effects), or BECCS (Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) (storing carbon emissions in underground geological formations) which will require mass drilling of the planet. These are all presented as large-scale engineering “solutions” by today’s ideologues that fail to address the cause. These ideologues from both sides of the political spectrum (even the neoliberal right who believe all we need to do is trust the marketplace, a completely false idea that got us into this mess to begin with) will not be entertaining any considerations that perhaps the profit system be reconsidered, or that humans should imagine new ways of living and producing that take the integrity of the living world as a priority. Such reimagining will need to come from the public, from us.

A recent article in The Conversation informed us in its title alone that the “US military is a bigger polluter than as many as 140 countries – shrinking this war machine is a must” ( That claim alone, if true, also raises serious questions about how much any of our personal choices are going to make without addressing more large-scale, systemic, fundamental, issues.

I guess I just wanted to say “It’s all connected, isn’t it?”: pollution; climate change; deforestation; agriculture; militarism; profit making; the economic and ideological power of a few people; and no doubt many other features of our world. They urge us all to entertain utopian thinking as well as practical considerations to reimagine what a sustainable world would look like, and how important it is for each and every one of us to work toward it.

We in XR Chicago invite you all to seriously consider these deep issues of survival and quality of life, that the topic of sustainability requires. We need educated citizens who can organize and act! Please join us in that vital cause!